Page 30 - Foreign Service Journal - February 2013

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inadequate security and leadership failures to have put Ameri-
can citizens unnecessarily in harm’s way. Its report faulted the
department for relying too heavily on local security forces in its
improvised security arrangements, and found the oversight of
those provisions to be confusing and undisciplined.
Sec. Clinton accepted all of the board’s recommendations
(see page 12 for the full list) and requested additional money
from Congress to implement its fndings, including hiring 150
new DS agents, a 15-percent increase in the force. Additional
resources are certainly need-ed, but exactly how they should
be deployed is the real question.
Regrettably, the Dec. 20 Senate hearing on the topic did not
tackle this issue. Te word “contractor,” for example, doesn’t
even appear in the transcript. Once the urgency of the Beng-
hazi report recedes, it is uncertain whether Congress will follow
through with the additional funding State needs to hire more
agents. And in the absence of that commitment, hiring security
contractors will continue to be the path of least political resis-
tance, even though experience has shown this to be a highly
unreliable option.
Alternatively, Washington could choose to refrain from
ambitious military intervention, a policy shift our current fs-
cal crisis may facilitate in any case. But that would still leave
us with the need to meet ongoing commitments, which have
already led to reliance on the “fortress embassy” model. No
matter how efective that approach may have been in keeping
our facilities and personnel safe, our experience in Baghdad
and other places raises real concerns about how efective
diplomacy can be when conducted from behind a barricade.
Formulating the appropriate approach to security at embas-
sies and consulates around the globe thus turns, in part, on
how one envisions the future of U.S. diplomacy. If carefully
calibrated military interventions that avoid the introduction of
ground forces are the wave of the future, then the State Depart-
ment would be wise to build internal capacity to pursue its
mission without unnecessary risk. Or, if the faltering economy
makes the American public less willing to fnance a large diplo-
matic presence overseas, then fewer Foreign Service personnel
would be put in harm’s way.
However Washington proceeds, properly funding and staf-
ing U.S. diplomacy and development programs after more than
a decade of war is likely to remain a pressing concern. As that
debate unfolds, it’s worth keeping in mind that one of the big-
gest hidden costs of depending so heavily on contractors is that
it can blind us to those things that only government employees
can do well.